Officials at American University are investigating the sighting of a man wearing a Confederate flag hoodie in a campus dining hall Thursday night.
“We recognize that the Confederate flag feels threatening to members of our community,” Fanta Aw, vice president of campus life, said in an email to the campus. “As a university that values inclusion, freedom of expression and a culture of openness, we recognize that resolving the tensions that can arise between these issues is challenging.”
Aw said the university would release information as it continued to investigate the matter. A university spokesman could not respond Friday to specific questions, including if the person spotted in the Terrace Dining Room was thought to be a student or otherwise connected with the private university in Northwest Washington.
A campus police officer talked to the man, who ate in the dining hall, after students “expressed concern about his presence.” The man later left, according to the university.
Aw tweeted that the university understands “how this is impacting some in our community.”
It is not the first time Confederate imagery has sparked concern at the university, which has encountered racist episodes in recent years.
In 2017, chunks of cotton were attached to Confederate flag posters and affixed to university walls. They were discovered the same night AU held a presentation introducing an initiative intended to work on issues involving racial inequality.
Earlier that year, bananas were hung from string “in the shape of nooses” and marked with “AKA,” the letters of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, whose membership is predominantly black. University police investigated the incident as a hate crime, but a suspect was never identified.
This story has been updated with new developments.